Real name: Lucille Desiree Ball
Birthdate: August 6, 1911
Partner: Gary Morton
After her father died, Ball and her brother Fred were raised by her working mother and grandparents. Her grandfather, Fred C. Hunt, was an eccentric socialist who enjoyed the theater. He frequently took the family to vaudeville shows and encouraged young Lucy to take part in both her own and school plays.
Along the way, she created a television dynasty and reached several "firsts". Ball was the first woman in television to be head of a production company: Desilu, the company that she and Arnaz formed. (After buying out her ex-husband's share of the studio, Ball functioned as a very active studio head.)
Desilu and I Love Lucy pioneered a number of methods still in use in television production today. When the show premiered, most shows were captured by kinescope, and the picture was inferior to film. The decision was made to film the series, a decision driven by the performers' desire to stay in Los Angeles.
The following year, Ball did a musical on Broadway, Wildcat, co-starring Paula Stewart. It was Stewart who introduced her to her next husband Gary Morton, a Borscht Belt stand-up comic who was twelve years her junior. That marked the beginning of a 30-year friendship between Lucy and Paula. Morton told interviewers at the time that he had never seen Ball on television, since he was always performing during primetime. Ball immediately installed Morton in her production company, teaching him the television business and eventually promoting him to producer. Morton also played occasional bit parts on Ball's various series.
Ball was originally considered, by Frank Sinatra, for the role of Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate. However, director/producer John Frankenheimer had worked with Angela Lansbury in a mother role in another film, and insisted on having her for the part. (Source: Frankenheimer's DVD audio commentary.)
The failure of this series was said to have sent Ball into a serious depression, and other than a few miscellaneous awards show appearances, she was absent from the public eye for the last several years of her life. Her last appearance, several weeks before her death, was at the 1989 Oscar telecast in which she was presented by Bob Hope to a cheering audience.
On April 18, 1989, Ball complained of chest pains and was rushed to the emergency room of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was diagnosed as having a dissecting aortic aneurysm and underwent surgery for nearly eight hours. The surgery was successful and Ball was recovering; she was walking around her room with little assistance. On April 26, shortly before dawn, Ball awoke with severe back pains. Her aorta had ruptured in a second location and Ball quickly lost consciousness. All attempts to revive her proved unsuccessful and at approximately 5:17 a.m., Lucille Ball died at the age of 77.
On May 1, 1989, one week after her death, Lucille Ball was featured as a subplot on the TV series Designing Women wherein stars Jean Smart and Dixie Carter discuss Charlene (Smart)'s new Lucille Ball VHS tape and Julia (Carter) responds, "Yes I love Lucy, we all love Lucy." A photo of Lucy on the set of I Love Lucy was used as the backdrop to the episode's credits, as well as the theme song of the series.
In 1990, Lucille Ball was posthumously awarded the Women's International Center's Living Legacy Award.
Lucille Ball has appeared on the cover of TV Guide more than any other person; she appeared on 39 covers.